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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Referendum law evokes one question: Why?

Staff writer

Now that a law is in place for conducting a national referendum on revising the Constitution, it is important to tell the public why it needs to be amended and start more discussions, a pro-amendment group said Saturday.

Because this is the first Constitution Day since the referendum law took effect last year, "this year is a turning point," said representative Junpei Kiyohara at the group's 39th annual forum in Tokyo to discuss the Constitution.

"We need to start focusing on explaining Japanese citizens (why amendments need to take place)," he said.

While the Constitution has remained intact since it took effect in 1947, events and situations can change quickly and necessitate change, Kiyohara said, citing amendments other countries have made to their supreme codes.

"The Constitution needs to be adjusted to the current society as opposed to society adjusting to the old constitution," he told the audience.

The event was attended by several lawmakers who also gave speeches, including former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's brother Nobuo Kishi. The group was founded by Abe's grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, in 1969.

Although the referendum law was established in 2007, there haven't been any active discussions about the Constitution recently, Kishi said.

"We need to start up the 'kenpo shinsakai' (a constitutional research panel in the Lower House) and hold discussions," Kishi said.

The group is open to any political parties, and many lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Japan, the leading opposition party, participate in its activities, the group said.

Some lawmakers who attended the event, however, pointed out that there were not DPJ politicians at the event.

"Constitutional amendment is a huge task," said Kishi. "The discussion has to take place outside the framework of political parties."

Koike told the gathering that part of her motive for entering politics 16 years ago was to change the Constitution so the country can make more contributions to the international community.

The event seemed well-received by the audience.

"It was very good," said Rikuro Murakami of Tokyo. "I thought our nation needs a Constitution created by the Japanese people" and that it should be one that includes Japan's "tradition and culture."

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The Japan Times

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